Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall
Walt Disney Concert Hall
TypeConcert hall
Built1999–2003
OpenedOctober 23, 2003
Location111 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, California
United States
Construction cost$240 million
Seating typeReserved
Capacity2,265

The Walt Disney Concert Hall at 111 South Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, California is the fourth hall of the Los Angeles Music Center. Bounded by Hope Street, Grand Avenue, 1st and 2nd Streets, it seats 2,265 people and serves (among other purposes) as the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Lillian Disney made an initial gift in 1987 to build a performance venue as a gift to the people of Los Angeles and a tribute to Walt Disney's devotion to the arts and the city. The Frank Gehry-designed building opened on October 23 2003. Both the architecture by Frank Gehry and the acoustics of the concert hall (designed by Yasuhisa Toyota) were praised in contrast to its predecessor, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Acoustics

In a late stage of construction; the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is to the right in the rear.

As construction finished in the spring of 2003, the Philharmonic postponed its grand opening until the fall and used the summer to let the orchestra and Master Chorale adjust to the new hall. Performers and critics agree that this extra time taken was well worth it by the time the hall opened to the public. During the summer rehearsals a few hundred VIPs were invited to sit in including donors, board members and journalists. Writing about these rehearsals, L.A. Times music critic, Mark Swed wrote the following account:

When the orchestra finally got its next [practice] in Disney, it was to rehearse Ravel's lusciously orchestrated ballet, "Daphnis and Chloé" . . . This time, the hall miraculously came to life. Earlier, the orchestra's sound, wonderful as it was, had felt confined to stage. Now a new sonic dimension had been added, and every square inch of air in Disney vibrated merrily. Toyota says that he had never experienced such an acoustical difference between a first and second rehearsal in any of the halls he designed in his native Japan. Salonen could hardly believe his ears. To his amazement, he discovered that there were wrong notes in the printed parts of the Ravel that sit on the players' stands. The orchestra has owned these scores for decades, but in the Chandler no conductor had ever heard the inner details well enough to notice the errors.

Mark Swed

The hall met with lauded approval from nearly all of its listeners, including its performers. In an interview with PBS, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, said, "The sound, of course, was my greatest concern, but now I am totally happy, and so is the orchestra," and later said, "Everyone can now hear what the L.A. Phil is supposed to sound like." This remains to be one of the most successful grand openings of a concert hall in American history.

The walls and ceiling of the hall are finished with Douglas-fir while the floor is finished with oak. The Hall's reverberation time is approximately 2.2 seconds unoccupied and 2.0 seconds occupied.

Reflection problems

The exterior of Founders room after panels were re-surfaced.

After the construction, modifications were made to the Founders Room exterior; while most of the building's exterior was designed with stainless steel given a matte finish, the Founders Room and Children's Amphitheater were designed with highly polished mirror-like panels. The reflective qualities of the surface were amplified by the concave sections of the Founders Room walls. Some residents of the neighboring condominiums suffered glare caused by sunlight that was reflected off these surfaces and concentrated in a manner similar to a parabolic mirror. The resulting heat made some rooms of nearby condominiums unbearably warm, caused the air-conditioning costs of these residents to skyrocket and created hot spots on adjacent sidewalks of as much as 60 ºC (140 ºF). After complaints from neighboring buildings and residents, the owners asked Gehry Partners to come up with a solution. Their response was a computer analysis of the building's surfaces identifying the offending panels. In 2005 these were dulled by lightly sanding the panels to eliminate unwanted glare.

Concert organ

View of the stage and organ before a concert.

The design of the hall included a large concert organ, completed in 2004, which was used in a special concert for the July 2004 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists. The organ had its public debut in a non-subscription recital performed by Frederick Swann on September 30, 2004, and its first public performance with the Philharmonic two days later in a concert featuring Todd Wilson.

The organ's facade was designed by architect Frank Gehry in consultation with organ consultant and sound designer Manuel Rosales. Gehry wanted a distinctive, unique design for the organ. He would submit design concepts to Rosales, who would then provide feedback. Many of Gehry's early designs were fanciful, but impractical: Rosales said in an interview with Timothy Mangan of The Orange County Register, "His [Gehry's] earliest input would have created very bizarre musical results in the organ. Just as a taste, some of them would have had the console at the top and pipes upside down. There was another in which the pipes were in layers of arrays like fans. Very fascinating. Couldn't be built. The pipes would have had to be made out of materials that wouldn't work for pipes. We had our moments where we realized we were not going anywhere. As the design became more practical for me, it also became more boring for him." Then, Gehry came up with the curved wooden pipe concept, "like a logjam kind of thing," says Rosales, "turned sideways." This design turned out to be musically viable.

The organ was built by the German organ builder, Caspar Glatter-Götz, under the tonal direction and voicing of Manuel Rosales. It has an attached console built into the base of the instrument from which the pipes of the Positive, Great, and Swell manuals are playable by direct mechanical, or "tracker" key action, with the rest playing by electric key action; this console somewhat resembles North-German Baroque organs, and has a closed-circuit television monitor set into the music desk. It is also equipped with a detached, movable console, which can be moved about as easily as a grand piano, and plugged in at any of four positions on the stage, this console has terraced, curved "amphitheatre"-style stop-jambs resembling those of French Romantic organs, and is built with a low profile, with the music desk entirely above the top of the console, for the sake of clear sight lines to the conductor. From the detached console, all ranks play by electric key and stop action.

In all, there are 72 stops, 109 ranks, and 6,125 pipes; pipes range in size from a few centimeters/inches to the longest being 9.75m (32 feet) (which has a frequency of 16 hertz).

The organ is a gift to the County of Los Angeles from Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (the U.S. sales, marketing, service, and distribution arm of Toyota Motor Corporation).

Pop culture

  • The Hall was spoofed in The Simpsons episode "The Seven-Beer Snitch"; Gehry voiced himself in the episode where the town of Springfield had him design a new Concert Hall for the town. The Concert Hall was then transformed into a jail by Mr. Burns. The character Snake eventually escapes from the prison while saying, "No Frank Gehry-designed prison can hold me!"
  • The first ever movie premiere at the concert hall was in 2003, when The Matrix Revolutions held its world premiere.
  • The Hall is featured in the video game Midnight Club: Los Angeles.
  • In the opening moments of "Day 6" of 24, a suicide bomber destroyed a bus in the vicinity of the Concert Hall.
  • The Concert Hall held Ellen DeGeneres co-hosting for American Idol during the special week of Idol Gives Back. Rascal Flatts, Kelly Clarkson, and Il Divo performed here.
  • This building was also used in the Iron Man (2008 release) movie briefly for a party for Stark Industries.
  • The finale of the 2008 movie Get Smart was filmed at the Concert Hall.
  • In the promotion picture for the television series Shark, the cast is standing in front of the Concert Hall.
  • Alvin drives past it in the 2007 Alvin and the Chipmunks movie.
  • In the original pilot of the US TV remake of Life On Mars, the Hall features prominently in the sequence where Sam travels back to 1972. It is an emblem of the ultra-modern landscape that Sam is about to leave behind.
  • On Everyday Italian, Giada De Laurentiis was preparing foods for her family and friends before she went there.
  • "One Hour", a 3rd season episode of NUMB3RS, extensively features the concert hall. The action begins outside the hall, and after a long series of events around town, the FBI winds up going inside the hall in order to rescue a young boy from his captors.
  • It is heavily used and an important building in the 2009 film, The Soloist.
  • Filming was done on location at the Concert Hall for a fictional Boomkat music video in the CW's Melrose Place.

Restaurant

The concert hall houses celebrity chef Joachim Splichal's landmark fine dining restaurant Patina. Patina serves French and California cuisine.